By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
The majority of us have heard of oil of oregano and oregano essential oil, but did you know they are not the same thing? Aside from having similar benefits, the way these two products are used couldn’t be more different, especially when practicing appropriate safety measures.
I use both of them, but not interchangeably. For instance, oil of oregano is meant to be taken internally, while oregano essential oil should never be ingested but diffused or applied topically instead. Learn more about why you should never ingest essential oils here.
For starters, oregano is an herb from the mint or Lamiaceae family. There are many different types of oregano, but Oregano vulgare, also known as Origanum, Spanish thyme, and wild marjoram, is the most commonly used in the herb world. These perennial herbs have been used for thousands of years to flavor dishes and treat health conditions in Mediterranean countries, western Asia, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and the United States (1).
Benefits of oregano include:
- Rich in antioxidants (2)
- Antibacterial properties (3)
- Antimicrobial properties (4)
- Antiviral properties (5)
- Anti-inflammatory properties (6)
- May prevent and kill certain cancers (7)
Learn more about the benefits of oregano here.
When & Why to Choose Oil of Oregano Vs. Oregano Essential Oil
Firstly, oregano’s medicinal properties stem from compounds like phenols, terpenes, and terpenoids, with powerful antioxidant properties (8):
- Carvacrol is the most abundant phenol in oregano and has been shown to stop the growth of several bacteria types (9).
- Thymol is a natural antifungal that supports the immune system and protects against toxins (10).
- Rosmarinic acid is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against free radical damage (11).
Let’s dig into the when and why of oil of oregano versus oregano essential oil.
Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is made by infusing extra virgin olive oil with dried oregano leaves, creating a robust and ingestible “natural antibiotic” widely used in the natural community.
Oil of oregano can be easily made but has a 4-week waiting period before it’s ready to be used, which you can learn how to do here. Additionally, you can buy capsules and tinctures online, but be cautious about certain brands that use oregano essential oil, sometimes listed as aerial parts oil.
As per trusted aromatherapist Wendy Robbins:
“Essential oils should not be taken internally without guidance by a qualified practitioner or until you have gained adequate knowledge and understanding of the risks and safe internal applications and dosages. Even though essential oils are cold pressed or steam distilled from a range of citrus and common spices like Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruits, Allspice, Basil, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Ginger, Rosemary and a number of other botanicals that are routinely ingested without the need for precautionary usage info, essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be ingested without thorough understanding of appropriate usage and risks for each oil (12).”
Instead, opt for something like Gaia’s Oil of Oregano Capsules or Garden of Life’s Oil of Oregano Drops. Both are great options the next time you’re trying to support your body during infection, cancer treatments, or any other time your immune system is struggling. I recommend using oil of oregano for a maximum of 2-4 weeks at a time.
Oregano Essential Oil
Contrarily, oregano essential oil is meant to be applied topically or diffused in the air. In some instances, you can find recipes for homemade mouthwashes, such as this D.I.Y. Natural, Toxin-Free Mouthwash, which is beneficial for tooth inflammation and infections, but you should never swallow the mouthwash.
According to aromatherapist Wendy Robbins, essential oils should never be taken internally or applied undiluted. Oregano essential oil should be diluted at the recommended dermal maximum of 1.1%. There are indications that oregano essential oil may cause embryotoxicity and a moderate risk of skin sensitization (13).
I highly recommend Plant Therapy’s Organic Oregano Essential Oil, but keep in mind it is not safe for children or pets or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
You can use oregano essential oil topically, never neat (undiluted), for fungal and bacterial infections or diffuse it for respiratory benefits such as easing coughs and congestion.